Ratings: ‘Idol’ Strong, ‘Leno’ Gets No Love

The hoopla surrounding Simon Cowell’s pending exit helps ensure no fall-off for the network’s golden goose

Ratings for "American Idol" remained steady as the show returned for its ninth season Tuesday, while Jay Leno couldn’t translate controversy into any ratings gains.

This fact will no doubt bring big smiles to the faces of Fox executives, who every year have to go to bed before the "Idol" premiere wondering if this is the year the golden goose goes belly-up. At least for now, Simon says: Relax.

With the hoopla surrounding Simon Cowell’s big news serving as the Best. Lead-in. Ever., "Idol" managed to bring 29.8 million viewers to the Fox table from 8-10 p.m. In adults 18-49, the show notched an 11.7 rating/29 share, the same as last year.

Fox’s mighty mighty competition almost doubled the combined demo ratings for ABC, CBS and NBC, and basically matched the combined overall audience for its rivals. ABC’s Tuesday lineup was particularly hard hit, averaging a 0.9 demo number for the two-hour block. 

"Idol" traditionally premieres huge, then falls off somewhat in coming weeks, before building back up again as the finalists come into focus. That pattern is likely to hold this year, but this year, there’s also a chance the show could get a bigger-than-normal bump around Hollywood week. That’s when Ellen DeGeneres makes her full-time judging debut. 

Meanwhile, "The Jay Leno Show" earned a 1.9 in the demo — down more than 10 percent from last week, despite the nonstop coverage of Late Night Crisis 2010. A factor in the decline: Leno’s lead-in was lower, as "Biggest Loser" lost some audience poundage due to "Idol."

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